NEW YORK—It isn’t exactly the type of publicity that most people seek, but for Kevin “KB” Blatt, adult industry marketing veteran and former reality show “sleaze ball,” Friday's profile in New York magazine titled “Say Hello to Kevin Blatt, Hollywood’s Sex-Tape Broker” is nothing to sneeze at and is actually something to write home about.
Written by David Kushner, the article tells the story of the “nice Jewish kid from Cleveland” who has become the go-to guy to either broker a sex tape or keep one off the market.
“Since promoting his first tape—the infamous video of Paris Hilton—in 2003,” writes Kushner, “Blatt has been embroiled in naughty bit scandals from the A-list (Colin Farrell, Cameron Diaz) to the D (Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer). ‘People will always get off on watching famous people having sex,’ says Paul Fishbein, president of Adult Video News. ‘Kevin has a knack for finding the tapes.’”
For KB, the article is not only an accurate reflection of his role as a sex-tape broker and the business in general, but its two-year journey from conception to publication is itself an illuminating tale about the ever-fluctuating state of the celebrity sex-tape phenomenon.
“There’s actually an interesting story behind the article,” he told AVN Friday afternoon. “About a year and a half ago, David Kushner and I were talking. He had called me about an article he was doing for Maxim magazine about celebrity sex tapes; how they come to fruition, who’s behind them, who’s making the money from them and also a little but about the adult internet business. I started talking with him on a regular basis, and found he was one of the most intelligent people I had ever met. What particularly impressed me was the fact that he really understood the internet.
“So I started pitching him on my book idea about the Wild West period and the growth of the adult internet, and all these young kids who were 18 years old with backpacks, the latchkey children who came home and took their computers apart and then put them back together, and before you know it these were the guys who were the leaders of the industry. And he got it, of course, and got really excited and then he got Maxim to get behind the story.
“Well, I don’t know what happened, but eight months into the story Maxim told him they were no longer interested in it, so David got the article back. Then, he goes to Details magazine and pitches them on the article, and they go, ‘This is fantastic.’ They sent out a bunch of photographers to the Players Ball during the AVN show a few years ago, and we had a three-hour photo shoot in a suite at the Luxor, and the article was scheduled to be in Details last August. In fact, a lot of webmasters reading this are going to remember going out and buying subscriptions to Details, because they wanted to see if they were in it.
“Well, after six months of waiting Details finally gets back to David and says they’re not going to run the story or use the photos. You have to understand that David, who also teaches journalism at Princeton, has done a ton of freelance work for major publications, and he said to me, ‘I know you’ve got a story here when two people don’t want to run it; there’s definitely a story.’
“I was also pissed off, but mostly because I’m a narcissist and I really wanted those photos. We had spent all day taking these great shots with these porn stars and Ron Jeremy and Mr. Marcus, and I wanted them. So David says to me, ‘You know what; I’m talking with New York magazine now. They just called me up, and they are very excited about learning more about you.’ How so, I asked. It turns out the J-Lo sex tape had become big news, everyone was talking about it and he said he thought he could probably pitch them a scaled-down version of the original article. So he did and then came back and said they wanted to hear all about it, and here we are.
“At the end of the day," said Blatt, "I’m really very happy with the article. My attorney, Paul Berra, even called me this morning and said it was the greatest plug he’d ever gotten in his life. He even showed it to his mom. ‘She’s so proud of me,’ he said. Great, I said, a lawyer and a scumbag, they go hand-in-hand, don’t they?
“But I think it’s a very cool article and very timely. I can’t tell you who or what, but I helped settle a major case last week for an A-list celebrity who had a tape floating out there that no one knew about, and no one will know about.”
That last statement led inexorably into a much longer conversation about the underlying business model of the sex-tape trade, which Blatt quickly conceded was changing rapidly as more people try to peddle tapes that often cannot be sold because they don’t have the required signatures, and others try to prevent even the unauthorized dissemination of tapes in which they appear.
“In many cases, if we can’t put these tapes out, I’m starting to see a real potential to make money by having the celebrities buy them back,” he said. “Now, of course, most people want to know why that isn’t extortion. Well, if I do it, if I call up, say, David Letterman and say, ‘Hey, give me two million dollars or I’m going public, that’s extortion. But if I have my attorney call their attorney, it’s called due process of the law. And it’s really kind of funny, because, as I told my partner, who is an attorney, being an attorney is like having a license to extort and steal.”
In most instances, he said, such “negotiations” by celebrities or their agents are conducted under extreme duress.
“They just don’t want [the tape] out there and in most cases, it’s a crisis management situation,” he said. “Obviously, it’s embarrassing for any celebrity to have a sex tape come out showing their genitalia or showing them in a compromising situation; it’s the kind of press they don’t need from the National Enquirer, TMZ or US Weekly. We’re living in an unprecedented age right now. TMZ has become the most powerful website in the country, in the world. And now, sex tapes have hit their peak because of these sites and because of the tube sites. I mean, think about how easy it is to put something up and within minutes potentially millions of people can see it.”
Sex-tape leakage comes in all shapes and sizes, but for Blatt the real difference is between a tape that is legitimate and newsworthy and one that is clearly exploitative. Sometimes, however, a tape falls into the gray area.
“The Carrie Prejean situation perfectly highlights the difference between what I call newsworthy releases and those that infringe on someone’s copyright or trademark. I try to deal with the cases that are newsworthy, which gives me a level of self-justification, but not a lot.
“Now, I happen to know for a fact that you are going to see the [Prejean] tape, the masturbation tape, come out in its entirety. It’s only 17 seconds long, there are like 20 stills that go along with it, but it’s nothing that anyone is going to drop their towel and get off to. But it is newsworthy. Google and YouTube don’t give a shit if she’s getting tag-teamed by eight black guys or if she’s doing a double anal. All that’s relevant to them is that it’s Miss USA and Donald Trump, which translates for them into keywords that will generate a ton of traffic.”
Authorizing signature or not, he said, the publicity generated by a Prejean tape puts those interested in exploiting it in a certain bind.
“Look,” he said, “Vivid could wind up with the tape tomorrow, but if they don’t have the rights to it, they could still come out and mosaic her titties and her pussy and say, ‘We’ve got the tape where she says she’s 17; we know for a fact that she’s 20, and we want to release her tape and give her a million dollars.’ Well, then it becomes a noteworthy and newsworthy story, and Vivid is able to jump on the press, because whoever gets the tape is going to benefit from it, traffic-wise.”
When asked about a US Weekly report that there are actually eight Prejean tapes in existence, Blatt said it was nonsense. “There are eight different clips that have been broken down from the original tape,” he said. “What is interesting is that there was only one person who was supposed to have the copy of this tape, but I found out this morning that there are several people out there peddling the same thing for this guy, and now everybody is getting turned off by this tape, whereas a week ago everyone wanted to buy it. Now they’re getting pissed off, because it only matters who gets it first for the SEO (search engine optimization) placement. Now, it’s like it’s blown up in everyone’s face, no one is going to make out on it, and I think that’s kind of fitting, because she really doesn’t deserve it.”
In fact, Vivid announced Friday that it now has the tape in its possession and is trying to negotiate its release with the model, and the company did indeed assert that Prejean was of age at the time of its making. "Carrie says the tape was 'the biggest mistake of my life,' Hirsch said. "That may be, but she can take this mistake and turn it into cold, hard cash. I'm more convinced than ever that this could be our best-selling Vivid-Celeb tape."
The current "race to release" does seem to support Blatt's contention that only one company will truly profit from the tape, one of many factors, including the bad economy, that he says have contributed to making the celebrity sex tape game a minefield of insecurity for everyone involved.
“I had another couple of tapes shopped to me last week,” he said, “and with one in particular, the celebrity came out and vehemently denied that she was a part of it, it wasn’t her, they were extorting her, and I said to her, ‘Look, no one’s going to release this without your signature, so unless you want to sign off on it, nobody’s going to buy it. But if you want to sign off on it, I can probably get you some decent offers.’ And she comes back and asks, how much? Well, I got her an offer for $100,000. It was Foxy Brown. TTBoy made her an offer for a hundred grand to come out, sign the paperwork, take a few more photos and they would release the tape. And there has already been a lot of talk about this [Foxy Brown] blowjob tape on the internet. But she never got on the plane. And this is someone who's hard up for money and needed the cash.”
When asked how long the craze can continue before a “ho-hum” factor takes over and the novelty wears off for all but the exceptional few A-list releases, Blatt said it's already happening.
"What I am seeing these days are a lot of people trying to shop tapes that are useless. They're either guy sex tapes, which don’t sell well, or tapes that don’t carry the right certification. But my biggest problem is the perpetuation of the lie that these girls are not behind it, that they’re suing to not have the tape come out, which is what's causing the morons to climb out from under their rocks to try to sell out their lovers and make some money."
KB said he quickly disabuses them of such misconceptions.
“They all end up having that ‘ah-ha’ moment," he said, laughing. "It usually happens at the beginning of the conversation; at some point I say, ‘Look, unless you have her signature releasing the tape, you’re not going to make any money from it.’ And then there's always a pause and they get quiet, and then they ask, ‘You mean Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian signed off on this?’”
Before we ring off, Blatt recounts a story about a recent meeting he had with someone looking to cash in on a tape with no signature.
“I was in [famous attorney’s] office, dealing with this client who had this tape, and we’re all sitting around the table, and [famous attorney] goes, ‘Look, you can’t do anything with this tape; it’s useless to you, sir. What are you planning on doing with it?’ And the guy says, ‘Well, I figured I could probably get some money.’ And [famous attorney] goes, ‘You figured wrong, sir.’ And [famous attorney] tells me later that I must love this situation because I’m getting all these people coming to me with sex tapes. And I said, I’d love it if it were a better business model, but these people think it’s worth a half a million or a million when in fact it’s worth nothing. And it’s the hardest thing in the world to tell someone like Foxy Brown, ‘Look, I know that you used to be a famous rapper, but now you’re like fruitcake the day after Christmas. Nobody wants it.’ I actually told her that. The hardest thing I have ever had to do in my ten years in adult was to tell Foxy Brown why she wasn’t relevant and why she wasn’t Halle Berry. And the sad thing is it’s true.”
Broker, businessman, bogeyman and bad news breaker to the stars (or ex-stars or wanna-be stars), Kevin Blatt rejects the suggestion that he's like a miner whose job is to extract precious lucre from a rising tide of celebrity sex tapes—some valuable, some fool's gold.
“I love the gold mining analogy,” he said, “but it’s actually more like salvaging. I’m the Fred Sanford of porn. People come to me with their junk and I try to flip it and make a buck.”